Retro Film Review: Excess Baggage (1997)

in #filmlast month


Alicia Silverstone's quick rise and even quicker fall is cautionary tale about weak foundations of Hollywood stardom. It took only few wrong choices for Silverstone to begin her descent. One of them was Batman and Robin. Another was decision to start her own production company, something quite brave for a woman of her young age. Unfortunately, this bravery didn't pay off and Silverstone's first film Excess Baggage, 1997 comedy directed by Marco Brambilla, turned into failure.

In this film Silverstone plays Emily, spoiled daughter of rich, shady and emotionally distant businessman Alexander Hope (played by Jack Thompson). In an elaborate attempt to bring father's attention to herself, she fakes her own kidnapping, collects 1 million US$ ransom from father and in the end locks herself in the trunk of BMW to finish the deception. Unfortunately, that particular BMW is taken by professional car thief Vincent Roche (played by Benicio Del Toro). When he opens the trunk and realises that he unwittingly became kidnapper Vincent becomes faced not only with difficult moral dilemma, but also with his hostage's unbearable character. While two of them try to find a way how to get out of that difficult situation, they become pursued by mobsters and Raymond (played by Christopher Wlaken), Alexander's brother specialised in dirty work.

Silverstone made two major mistakes during production of Excess Baggage. First was rather unpolished script which begins like interesting and sometimes even intriguing black comedy only to disappointingly succumb to cliches and predictability in the second part. Second major mistake was casting. Silverstone took the title role and tried very hard to erase her nice teenager image by having her character physically abuse poor kidnapper, smoke her lungs out and using tons of make-up. All she did with that was to erase great deal sympathy for Emily, something Del Toro didn't do with his portrayal of confused, but generally well-natured criminal. Direction of Marco Brambilla is passable, but it doesn't do much to solve script problems. The acting in film is generally very good, with dependable actors like Walken and Nicholas Turturro enjoying support of many less known colleagues, whose faces, as well as film's locations, are familiar to X-Files fans. Despite all of its problems, Excess Baggage is sufficiently entertaining and film's failure, as well as Silverstone's career descent, is undeserved.

RATING: 5/10 (++)

(Note: The text in its original form was posted in Usenet newsgroup on March 18th 2004)

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